MPLS Demo: Some Answers, Some MIAs
A total of 13 vendors showed up last week. Participating equipment vendors included routing vendors Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK), and Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN), along with Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and testing gear vendors, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA), and Spirent plc (NYSE: SPM; London: SPT).
The tests, sponsored by the MPLS Forum and European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC), were billed as the first public scaleability tests designed to demonstrate the ability of multi-vendor MPLS VPN technology and equipment to meet the requirements of large service provider networks.
The first test of these technologies took place last June at the Supercomm tradeshow in Atlanta, and the third is scheduled for June 2003 at Supercomm.
So what type of progress has been made? Vendors showed basic interoperability, but they also demonstrated that Layer 2 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), based on the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Martini draft, and Layer 3 Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), using RFC 2547, could successfully scale to real-world limits, says Carsten Rossenhövel, managing director of research & manufacturer testing for EANTC. It was also the first interoperability demonstration to test both the facility backup and detour backup methods for implementing MPLS Fast Reroute.
“This wasn’t a bake-off in any way,” says Rossenhövel. “We talked to service providers and wrote test specifications based on their requirements. In many cases, the vendors participating could have exceeded these goals.”
But eyebrows may be raised by the point-to-point Layer 2 VPN test, in which only three routing vendors participated -- Cisco, Redback, and Riverstone. All three were able to reach the goal of 200 Ethernet VLAN tunnels.
The Layer 3 VPN demo tested the scaleability of Border Gateway Protocol-based VPNs. More than two-thirds of the seven participating vendors were able to achieve the test goal of 255 VPNs among 10 edge routers, each injecting between 10 and 1,000 routes into each VPN tunnel. Alcatel, Cisco, Data Connection Ltd. (DCL), NetPlane Systems Inc., Nortel, Redback, and Riverstone all participated.
Five vendors participated in the MPLS Fast Reroute portion of the test, demonstrating for the first time in public interoperability using the detour method. Alcatel, Avici, Data Connection, and NetPlane all support this feature on their gear, which provides one-to-one link protection and allows each link to have its own label switched path (LSP) for failover. Avici and Cisco also demonstrated the facility method, which uses one LSP for failover.
Rossenhövel says that a few slight problems occurred during the MPLS Fast Reroute test, but he emphasized that all the vendors were able to demonstration sub-50ms recovery time.
“Given that this was the first public interoperability test for detour and the second for facility backup, the test results were promising,” he wrote in the white paper detailing the testing results. “They helped to identify interoperability issues, mainly caused by not well-defined draft standards.”
While the test was deemed an overall success, it was hard not to notice that key vendors were missing from some of the demonstrations. In particular, routing and switching vendors, CoSine Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: COSN), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), and Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) -- all of which have participated in other interoperability events hosted by other organizations -- were absent from this event (see MPLS Vendors Demo Fast Reroute).
It seems that for many of these vendors, resources for interoperability testing has become scarce.
“The decision not to participate was one of resources and priorities,” wrote Susan Ursch, a Juniper spokesperson in an email today. “At this year's event Juniper chose to focus its attention on demonstrating the first ever VPLS BGP/MPLS implementation.”
Foundry, which participated in about eight MPLS interoperability events in 2002, says it also chose not to participate because of limited resources.
Extreme wouldn’t give a specific reason for not participating. The company pointed out it has demonstrated MPLS interoperability with Isocore, with InteropNet Labs at the Spring and Fall N+I, at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (IOL), and with the MPLS Forum and Metro Ethernet Forum.
Others like CoSine seemed to think that the MPLS World Congress event was not worth their investment of time or money.
“We do not believe that these kinds of demonstrations buy much in the way of customer traction,” says Jay Nichols, a spokesperson for CoSine.
Steven Garrison, director of marketing for Riverstone, whose company also participated in many of these other events, says he sees a lot of value in participating in as many events as possible. He says that interoperability demonstrations are not a number one priority as far as marketing strategy goes, but that they provide important strategic information on competitors. He says over the last couple of years that he has seen participation decline.
“Companies are being choosier about the events they participate in,” he says. “But the ones that are really serious about a technology show up and the posers don’t.”
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading